Queensland has been declared off-limits to travellers from greater Sydney, including the virus-hit northern beaches where a cluster has so far infected 83 people. That measure will remain in place until January 8 at least.
Queenslanders who have recently been in the greater Sydney hotspot area have been given until 1am tomorrow to return home and avoid mandatory, and expensive, hotel quarantine over Christmas. Even if they beat the deadline, they will still be required to get tested and agree to home isolation until they are given a clearance.
But the surge of traffic this week has left police scrambling, and revealed a significant number of motorists carrying the wrong permit or none at all. That has prompted the Palaszczuk government to move from random intercepts at checkpoints to barricades.
“What we are seeing is people are breaching and are being turned around so there will be a hard border closure,” Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced this afternoon.
“People will start to see barricades going up again this afternoon and by 6am tomorrow it will be back to the strong border measures that we have seen in Queensland that have kept Queenslanders safe.”
The border declaration system was re-introduced on Friday, and since then there have been more than 237,500 applications for a permit to enter Queensland. There have been delays of more than an hour on some road crossings, only four days from Christmas.
But Deputy Police Commissioner Steve Gollschewski said that in less than nine hours since greater Sydney was declared off-limits this morning, some 81 people had to be turned around on the roads and another 1,122 placed into hotel quarantine.
Gollschewski said he believed some of the paperwork lapses were deliberate as people were “making it very clear that they were trying to get into Queensland to meet with family for Christmas purposes”.
“We can’t give the community confidence that we are picking everyone up, as it is, coming across the border, hence the need to move to a harder border closure,” Gollschewski said.
The barricades were only pulled down less than a month ago. Police will continue to meet all arriving flights.
Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young said she was frustrated at still not being able to trace all the potential contacts of a woman who visited south-east Queensland and was later confirmed to have carried an infection from the Avalon cluster.
Young said sewage testing also added to her fears that people from the northern beaches may have travelled around Queensland with COVID-19.
Long queues at testing facilities have prompted Queensland Health to commit more resources, in an effort to lift the number of daily tests above 5,000 again.